After a 15-year career at the helm of the El Diamante Miners Mark Rogers officially retires
VISALIA – One of the most influential coaches in Tulare County football history was absent along the El Diamante’s sidelines last Thursday as the Miners lost 52-0 to the Tulare Union Tribe. Mark Rogers spent his first Friday night in 37 years away from the sidelines after stepping down last Tuesday and ending his 15-year career with the Miners. In a statement released by Visalia Unified School District Rogers stepped down due to health reasons brought on by Parkinson’s disease. Immediately after, defensive coordinator Devin Ramos assumed the duties as interim head coach.
“I’ve been very fortunate. It takes more than one person to be successful, I’m lucky I have a good wife, I’ve had good principals, good assistant coaches and a good school where everyone has the philosophy to get involved in the school,” Rogers said. “It was a little different being absent, but I made the decision for the right reasons.”
A Visalia native Rogers graduated from Mt. Whitney High School. After attending College of the Sequoias for two years he went on to finish his education at San Francisco State.
Rogers began his career teaching and coaching at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California. He taught special education and coached the aquatics team for five years. In 1981 he returned to the central valley and began teaching and coaching at Redwood where his legacy football began.
He started out as an assistant freshman coach in 1981. Three years later he headed up the freshman squad, and helped the varsity team under Rodger Kelly on Friday nights and broke down film on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t until 1988 he was brought up as a varsity assistant under Kelly. Rogers remained with the program until 2002 and helped the Rangers win the 1996 section title.
In 2003 Rogers was hired as El Diamante’s first ever head varsity football coach. As of his retirement last week, he leaves the program with a record of 110-60. He won seven West Yosemite League titles between 2005 and 2017. Four of those titles were won in consecutive years. Additionally, he has two Division II Valley Championships to his name in 2007 and 2013.
Rogers’ Parkinsons disease began shortly after he was hired at El Diamante. Up until that point in his life he had cherished the elation of hard-fought wins, dealt with the disappointment of close defeats, all while handling the incurable illness. However, he always found a way to get up in the morning. Good thing he did because he’s had a few memorable moments.
In the 2006 D-II playoffs the Miners were the fourth seed and upset the West Bakersfield Vikings 36-34 when they had future NFL running back and Fresno State standout Ryan Mathews on their team.
“That was a huge win for us,” Rogers said.
Rogers’ 2013 season was a year of upsets for the Miners. In the semifinals El Diamante defeated the Sanger Apaches 21-17 when they marched 80 yards and scored a game winning touchdown with four seconds left. The following week the Miners captured their second valley title with a 28-14 win over Garces Memorial and matched their previous best record at 12-1.
Sure to be standing in Rogers’ shadow for at least the rest of this season, the new face of the Miners has a long history with the program. Devin Ramos has been a part of Rogers’ coaching staff since 2011 when he was named the defensive backs coach. Two years later he was named the defensive coordinator. The position he held until Sept. 21, when Rogers addressed the team, staff and administration to officially announce his retirement. That same day Ramos was told he would be the new interim.
“It was a very emotional day for us as a coaching staff,” Ramos said. “We’ve all been with Rogers for so long and to see him be forced out when he didn’t want to was difficult, but he’s doing what he needs to do.”
Although, Ramos is only the second head coach in the program’s history the goals have not changed. The 2018 team has three goals: win the West Yosemite League, win the city championship, go deep into the playoffs.
“We are headed in the same direction we’ve always been,” Ramos said.
Ramos played his high school ball at Templeton before making his first trip to Visalia to play for the College of the Sequoias Giants in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He finished up his career at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The philosophy of Rogers to cultivate his coaches into teachers was one of the reasons Ramos stayed so long.
“He preached to us every day that the best coaches are teachers and the best teachers are coaches,” Ramos said.